As discussed in my previous post, the Assessment in Higher Education Conference was excellent. I helped Tim Hunt to run a ‘MasterClass’ (workshop!) on ‘Producing high quality computer-marked assessment’ and, with Janet Haresnape, ran a practice exchange on the evaluation of our faculty-wide move to formative thresholded assessment. As a member of the organising committee I also ran around chairing sessions, judging posters etc. and I have to say I loved every minute of it. I see from the conference website that another delegate has said it was the best conference they have ever attended, and I would agree with this.
I could go talk more about a number of the presentations I heard but for now I will just reflect on two themes. Here’s the first.
I have read a fair amount about the use of audio files and/or screencasts to give feedback and enjoyed the presentation from Janis MacCallum (and Charlotte Chalmers) from Edinburgh Napier University on ‘An evaluation of the effectiveness of audio feedback, and of the language used, in comparison with written feedback’. One of Janis and Charlotte’s findings is that many more words of feedback are given when the feedback is given as an audio file. Another point, widely made, is that students like audio feedback because they can hear the tone of the marker’s voice. In the unlikely event of finding spare time, the use of audio feedback is something I’d like to investigate in the context of the OU’s Science Faculty.
There is a sense in which oral assessment (i.e. assessing by viva) is just the next step. There are issues, especially to do with student anxiety and possibility of examiner bias. However, if you are there with a student, you can tease out how much they know and understand. I find it an exciting possibility. Gordon Jouglin from the University of Queensland, who is an expert on oral assessment, gave an excellent keynote on the subject (though being a dim-twit I didn’t understand his title: ‘Plato versus AHELO: The nature and role of the spoken word in assessment and promoting learning’). His slides are here. Lots to think about.
The 5th Assessment in Higher Education Conference will run in 2015 – be there!